Road Test – The Earthfire Pizza Oven

Until recently I was under the impression that the only way to make decent pizza at home, was by baking it in a traditional woodfired built in pizza oven.  Unfortunately I don’t have on of those at hand, nor do I see myself having the space or cash to get one in the foreseeable future. I thought I was doomed to a life of bad takeaway pizza, or soggy bases.

Well lucky for us, I was WRONG! (Yes, yes, savour the moment, I don’t admit to this very often)

Ladies and gents, I give you, the Earthfire Portable Pizza Oven!

 

 

To be honest with you, when I first saw this baby on Yuppiechef about a year ago I thought nah, that little thing can’t possibly work as well as they claim; this must be some sort of gimmick, so I promptly ignored it and went back to sulking about the lack of quality pizza in my life.

Then near the end of last year I thought I’d take a chance and ask the guys at Earthfire if I could borrow a demo unit to do a review (pretty please).   I thought they would laugh me off, but much to my delight they agreed and I picked up the oven shortly thereafter.

I invited my neighbour Wolf over for a trial run that evening and we both concluded that it was a great success. ( I was so excited I forgot to take any pictures of the actual pizzas, sorry guys). We did two more trial runs that week, just to be 100% sure you know…

  First Look at the Earthfire Portal Pizza Oven

 

Next up I invited some of my fellow food blogger friends over for a year end wind down. I asked each of them to bring some fancy ingredients and they came up with some really cool combinations.  They all had nothing but high praise for the oven, and the man handling the cooking of course.  Such nice friends I have :)

When the questions on “how I can also get one for review purposes” started flying around I politely changed the subject and fetched more wine, worked like a charm.

 

Food Bloggers test out the Earthfire Pizza Oven

 

A few days later, my friend Ricky from ShapeShift phoned me up and asked me if I’d be keen on doing the catering for their year end party.  We talked about options for a while and I told him about this rad new pizza oven I am playing with. He liked the sound of that so it was settled, I was to cater for +- 20 people the Friday night, with this little oven as my only cooking vessel.

I went into a mild flat spin (this was also my first catering gig), but in the end we managed to pull it together and had an absolute ball (as you can see on some of the faces below).

 

 

Shapeshift Year End Pizza Party

 

The nice thing about a big pizza party like this is that everyone can get hands on and create their own masterpiece, and then get to walk around afterwards handing out tasters and boasting about the virtues of their masterpiece.

You can easily churn out 8 – 10 pizzas in this baby before she might need more coals, but if you are ever worried that you might run out of juice too quickly, there is a simple fix for that. Keep a fire going in your braai so you can easily top it up at any time, great for ambiance, and heat on cold nights.

Now with portability being one of the main selling points of the oven, I thought I’d take it on holiday with me to see how it performs “on the road”.  I strapped my new best friend in on the passenger seat and off we went.

 

Earthfire on the road

 

 

First stop Jongensfontein, where my family normally spends some time during December holiday.

My new Head Kitchen Assistant (read cute lil niece Kayla) kindly “helped” me with dough kneading duties earlier that morning so I thought it only fair that she get to join me and some friends later the day when we embarked on Operation Beach Pizza.

 

Kayla

 

I think it is safe to say that I am now her favourite uncle (Game on Uncle John!)

This was really such a lekker day.  We found one of those spots next to the beach where they have braai areas layed out and parked off there for a good part of the afternoon.  Again everyone got a turn to create their own pizza, I really love this way of eating, getting everyone involved.

 

Earthfire Pizza oven at Jongensfontein Beach

 

I was on the road again after a week or so of chilling with the fandamily, this time heading to the farm of my good friend “Aaklige Attie” (don’t ask).  He had a traditional style oven installed a while back and I was keen to do a Bake Off, to see which oven comes out on top.

According to my Italian friend and mentor Roberto Pietrella, a traditional pizza oven gives you three things your conventional oven can’t do.

Heat: Most Home ovens simply don’t get hot enough and stop at 240°. You need at least 350° or more.

Porous surface: The porous surface of the bricks (or the pizza stone in the Earthfire’s case) helps to draw the moisture out of the base, making it nice and crispy. The same can’t be said for a baking sheet in an oven. I have seen people pack bricks in their ovens with some success, but this seemed like a tricky afair and depends on your oven, where the element is etc.

Woodfired taste: This is pretty self explanatory, the smokey flavour of woodfired pizza is simply amazing.  I wouldn’t advise chucking wood chips in your conventional oven, you’ll burn the place down.

Now, if you go purely on which oven bakes the best pizza, the traditional style oven is still the winner.  The biggest difference is that it has a lot more heat coming in contact with the top of the pizza, which allows it to caramelise the cheese and other ingredients.  You can see this on “Aaklig’s” creation on the left below.  You may also notice that the man is most definitely in the “MORE CHEESE” camp.

My more refined creation using the Earthfire (on the right) had a crispier base, but I would have liked a bit more caramelisation on top.  This is really not a big deal at all, but I thought I should at least mention it to you.

 

Witsand Bake Off

 

There are a number of other factors we need to consider here though.

Footprint: If space is an issue for you, the Earthfire wins hands down, as illustrated bottom right

Cost: I’ve asked around for quotes to get a built in oven installed, and they started at around R14 000, the Earthfire retails for R2500, ’nuff said.

Ease of use: The built in oven takes quite a bit of effort to clean, and takes about 2 hours to warm up to its optimum temperature. Cleaning the Earthfire is so easy it almost doesn’t count, and you will be cooking your first pizza in 40 minutes flat.

Throughput: You can cook more than one pizza at a time in a traditional oven, so technically it wins here. But in theory you could buy yourself 5 Earthfires for less money and run then in tandem, that’ll show ‘em!

Fuel usage: The built in oven went through a big crate of wood hungrily, the Earthfire used about a quarter of a bag of charcoal.

Portability: Honestly, making pizza at the beach… Do I need to explain here?  Also, once heated up, you can carry your Earthfire inside and put it on your dining room table (on a tile or wood board of course) and you can cook right there and then, neat huh?

 

It was “Aaklige Attie’s” birthday a few days after the Big Bake Off. As per tradition, he was having a shindig next to the river on their farm, cooking a lamb on the spit, Argentinian “Asado asador” style.

Drinking and telling rude jokes Braaing from mid day on an empty stomache in the sun have proven problematic in the past, so we decided to make some garlic pitas as starters this time round. I must admit it was a much more civilised afair (until later the evening when the womanfolk left of course, but I won’t elaborate on that here)

I modified the recipe for pizza dough (included with the oven) somewhat and came up with my own version, a Honey and Paprika dough, that got rave reviews from the masses.  I will post a recipe for the dough as well as the tomato base used on most pizza in the coming weeks.

 

Witsand Pita and Spit Braai with Earfire Portable Pizza Oven

 

I got a call from one of the dudes who helped me cook the pitas a few days afterwards, asking for my recipe. He found an Earthfire oven at a shop in Robertson, immediately bought one, and now had friends coming over for Pizza.  He clearly was rather impressed with this little beauty.

So to conclude, I do not like this oven, I absolutely LOVE it! It really has exceeded my expectations and I can recommend it to you with a clear conscience, buy one, you will dig it.

If you’d like to get your hands on one, you can find them in various braai and fireplace stores around the country (dealer list here).  To avoid running around trying to find one that has stock etc, I’d advise buying one online at my favourite salary devouring website  Online Kitchen Tools Emporium,  Yuppiechef.co.za.

If you are one of those still sceptical of buying things online, I suggest you give these guys a try, you will be pleasantly surprised, guaranteed!

 

In the interest of transparancy, I would like to note that I was not paid to do this review and should probably return the oven that I borrowed.  I can’t quite see myself doing that though, they will have to pry it from my cold dead hands! I am going to sweet talk them a bit and offer to buy it, hopefully at a hugely reduced fair price!
**Update** The rad folks at Earthfire enjoyed my review so much they told me I can keep the oven, free of charge! I look forward to playing with it some more in the months to come, thanks guys!

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Author:Fritz Brand

Passionate Foodie, Blues Man, Photographer, Technology Geek and all round cool dude.

30 Responses to “Road Test – The Earthfire Pizza Oven”

  1. Graham
    January 31, 2013 at 10:20 am #

    The pizzas from this oven are absolutely delicious. I really want one. You’ve hit the nail on the head, the pizzas from this oven are sublime and are a great social centerpiece. Actually, I don’t want one, I NEED one. Thanks for sharing and making us awesome pizza, Fritz :-)

    • Fritz Brand
      January 31, 2013 at 10:48 am #

      Thanks dude, we’ll do another pizza party soon, just to be sure ya know!

  2. January 31, 2013 at 10:37 am #

    Wow, wow, wow, Fritz, this is a world class review…… I hope they employ you full time…. Stunning photographs, really not good for January resolutions!!!

    • Fritz Brand
      January 31, 2013 at 10:48 am #

      Hahaha, thanks Nina. This thing really rocks so hard it’s impossible not to write a good review on it. Yea, I politely left out the bit about the waistlines!

  3. January 31, 2013 at 2:41 pm #

    Oh awesome!! Love this idea. So basically it is a lot like a Weber smokey Joe, but you don’t cook on a grid, right? What is the cooking surface – a stone? Must see if I can get one here on Mud island…

    • Fritz Brand
      January 31, 2013 at 2:51 pm #

      Hi Jeanne, it does rock.

      Yea I suppose it is similar to the smokey Joe, but the ceramic material will retain heat for much longer, so could work for baking bread, slow roasts and so forth as well. It comes with a pizza stone as well as a stainless steel grid with legs. The grid can stand on top of the stone (used to raise the pizza somewhat when the stone is too hot and the pizza is burning) or you can use just the grid, for braaing, roasting and smoking things

  4. Kayla Brand
    January 31, 2013 at 3:31 pm #

    Hello Uncle Fritz!

    Thanks for putting me on your blog and letting me help you with the pizza! Mommy says you are welcome to come and fetch me ANYTIME if you need more help. The pizza’s were so yummy, when are we going to do it again?.

    • Fritz Brand
      January 31, 2013 at 3:35 pm #

      Awww thanks sweety, we’ll make pizzas again very soon I promise! ;)

  5. Janice Tripepi
    January 31, 2013 at 4:02 pm #

    Ahhh …. i see your little helper is Kayla! What a noo noo!

    Pro’s and cons on both sides i guess! I agree that more heat on top of the pizza would be great buuuuuuuuuut, it’s not the B-all and End-all of pizza making. I often see people putting raw onion, mushroom, peppers etc. on a pizza! These should be cooked especially if you want a crispy base. I think this little piece of equipment is very nifty, a fornetto formidabile and certainly a cost effective, portable alternative to the built in oven! Did it hold much heat once the coals were all burnt … I mean residual heat?

    have a great evening
    xx
    jan

    • Fritz Brand
      January 31, 2013 at 4:24 pm #

      Hi Janice!

      Yup she is just the cutest :)

      For sure, pros and cons of each. Oh I didn’t know that, I put my mushrooms and peppers on raw and it still comes out nice and crispy, maybe because it doesn’t get so much heat up top it doesn’t push all the moisture out.

      Yup, it is very nifty, and for the price I think it is a real bargain. It holds heat very well yes, takes ages to cool down properly.

      Thanks, have a great one yourself!

      Cheers

  6. January 31, 2013 at 6:02 pm #

    Awesome post from Fritzaly

    Why don’t we do a BGE v Earthfire showdown at chez Drizzle?

    Kayla beyond adorable in the pic scoffing the pizza.

    Nicely done all round.

    Sam

    • Fritz Brand
      January 31, 2013 at 6:04 pm #

      Hi Sammy

      Thanks hun. For sure we can do that, if you are prepared to lose that is :P

      Yar she is the cutest :)

      Thanks Sammy

      Cheers

  7. February 1, 2013 at 1:23 am #

    Pizza tekort alert! Nou so lekker gelees en geniet.

    • Fritz Brand
      February 1, 2013 at 1:31 am #

      Haha, ek lei aan Pizza withdrawal, het ‘n ruk terug so baie gemaak, nou moet ek maar weer skade probeer afskud.

      Bly jy het dit geniet :)

  8. February 1, 2013 at 8:09 am #

    I totally want one!! Dit lyk tog te lieflik.

    • Fritz Brand
      February 1, 2013 at 9:10 am #

      Then my job here is done! Hahah, het gedink jy sal dit like, dis ‘n awesome speelding!

  9. February 7, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

    Hey Fritz, I just got a link to this review of our pizza oven and I am blown away !
    Your passion for our product matches our own. Thanks for a great review.

    • Fritz Brand
      February 7, 2013 at 4:32 pm #

      Hi Alex

      I’m glad you like the review, I had a great time writing it(and of course the rigorous testing / eating part).

      Three Cheers to the Earthfire Team!

  10. Andrea
    February 15, 2013 at 8:18 am #

    Hi Fritz

    We are also proud owners of an Earthfire pizza oven and haven’t been out for pizza in months – we can make better one’s at home!

    I think your photos captured, not only the quality of the pizza’s, but also the social aspect of having a pizza evening.

    We still need to experiment making other things in the pizza oven but that’ll come after our pizza addiction has subsided!

    Andrea

    • Fritz Brand
      February 15, 2013 at 8:32 am #

      Hi Andrea. Yea I don’t see myself going out for pizza any time soon either, so much better and more fun making it at at home.

      Thanks, the social aspect is a big plus for me as well :)

      Same here, haven’t got to trying anything other than pizza in it yet, but I can see the potential!

      Cheers

  11. Graham
    February 17, 2013 at 2:58 pm #

    Chuffed! Bought one of these babies last week. Fantastic service from Earthfire, and the pizza is delicious. Thanks for introducing us to this treasure :-)

    • Fritz Brand
      February 18, 2013 at 2:06 pm #

      Cool, thanks for the feedback Graham. May you have many happy pizza filled evenings :)

  12. March 5, 2013 at 10:18 am #

    A very professional review, Fritz! Lovely photos – looks so “warm and loving life” like! Love your little helper – she is adorable!

    • Fritz Brand
      March 5, 2013 at 10:19 am #

      Thanks Zirkie, yea she is just the cutest thing ever :)

  13. March 18, 2013 at 8:30 pm #

    That’s a great and thorough review, Fritz! We are the UK distributors for this wonderful pizza oven and have just posted a link to your review on our website for our local customers to enjoy.

    I think some of your images will also trigger a level of jealousy – its a few years since we’ve had a decent summer to enjoy outdoor cooking !!! :)

    • Fritz Brand
      May 10, 2013 at 4:17 pm #

      Thanks Andy, sorry about the jealousy inducing images! Haha

  14. Emily van Zyl
    July 19, 2013 at 3:59 pm #

    Hi Fritz, can you only find these on yuppiechef or is there somewhere in the northern burbs that stock them too, Daai spit by aaklige Attie het heeltemal tooo nice gelyk (smaak my ons Heidelbergers het maar ‘n ding vir more cheese). ps congrats oppie blog, dis baie cool en jou pics is genoeg om enige iemand te laat drool. Die Hattie is destined for great stuff. Jou passie is baie aansteeklik. Groetnis

  15. aneesa
    November 28, 2013 at 5:16 pm #

    hi fritz

    was looking online to purchase a good quality charcoal braai, and found your review…it looks like an amazing little wonder that can multitask. was wondering…have you tried is as a charcoal braai for chops etc? also, does it work as well with wood as it does with charcoal, for pizzas?

    thank you!

    • Fritz Brand
      December 2, 2013 at 9:58 pm #

      Hi Aneesa

      I haven’t actually tried using it as a braai, but I can’t thing of any reason that it wouldn’t work just fine. It’s surface area is smaller than a normal Weber for instance, but depending on the amount of people for that may or may not be a problem. I’ve made pizza in it using wood, so no problem there, I think the charcoal may just keep the heat a bit longer, and creates less ash that can clog up the air vents, but that should also not really be a problem when braaing

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